World Cup teams guide - part two
Group E :Switzerland, France, Honduras and Ecuador
Switzerland are ranked top ten in the world, topped their world cup qualifying group without losing a game and are the favourites to advance to the knockout stage. A team that is comfortable with or without the ball and worth all the hype but that could falter. Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld has announced retirement after the championships and how that plays out on the team is decisive.
France had to qualify via the narrowest of margins, scraping through the playoffs over Ukraine by just one goal difference. In Paul Pogba and Frank Ribery there is quality in the team and they should make the next round.
Ecuador qualified as one of best teams out of south America. It is a solid and decisive side. They are, in my opinion, possible qualifiers to the next round thanks to their climatic advantage.
Honduras qualified less elegantly than the others but should create some problems for the other three teams of this group.
Group F: Argentina, Nigeria, Iran and Bosnia
Argentina are clear favourites in this group on paper and beyond. They have an experienced line-up that includes four-time world player of the year Lionel Messi. They are clear and credible candidates to be Group leaders and World Cup winners.
Nigeria are African champions and for once kept the coach that qualified them to the tournament in Stephen Keshi. They are group favourites but need to negotiate a win off their opening game to avoid complications.
Iran are lesser known to many but to those who do know them, they are a team not to be taken for granted. Guided by Coach Carlos Queiroz of Manchester United, Real Madrid and Portugal fame, they are tactically solid and worthy of being fully respected.
Bosnia and Herzegovina are thought, erroneously, by many to be certain first-round exits due to their maiden qualifiers status. They topped their European group to reach the World Cup and are equipped with players who are household names in top European leagues in Europe. They are possible spoilers for Nigeria and Argentina, the two frontrunners on paper.
Group g: Germany, Portugal, Ghana and USA (The group of death)
Germany are clear favourites to qualify at the top of this group, short of an unexpected catastrophic event. They are blessed with exceptional young players of Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid and Arsenal fame. They will suffer enormous pressure to deliver now or see a change in management as manager Joachim Loew is under pressure to deliver silverware.
Portugal are the other favourites to qualify thanks to the presence of the current World Player of the Year, Champions League Winner and goals record holder: Cristiano Ronaldo. His fitness level off the recent string of injuries will be key.
Ghana were quarterfinalists four years ago but the team is far from what it was then. However, they are so well equipped that, if they can get their act together, they could upset the hierarchy here and just qualify as the two top teams auto destruct.
Manager Akwasi Appiah can depend on the Ayew brothers, Christian Atsu, Captain Asamoah Gyan, AC Milan’s Sulley Muntari,FC Schalke’s Kevin-Prince Boateng, Asamoah and Michael Essien.
The USA, led by ex-German coach Jurgen Klinsmann, look set to struggle in this group but never rule out the fighting patriotism of the Americans. Whether that will be enough we shall find out in a few days.
Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia and South Korea
The Belgians are overwhelming favourites from this group. Strange, considering that it's been 12 years since their last participation (2002).This they owe to the quality of players they have in their fold and the phenomenal representation in quantity and quality they have in the Barclays Premier League.
From goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to top striker Romelu Lukaku of Everton they are talented. The only question now is how do they cope with the total World Cup inexperience that reigns in their fold.
Algeria, this time around, is a much improved team over the 2010 edition in South Africa. Manager Vahid Hililhodzic has done a great job in his rejuvenating of the team. A technically gifted team with French league influence. The effective mix of new and old will be decisive on progression.
Russia, in the image of its coach Fabio Capello, are a changed team. Gone are the erratic Arshavins and the influx of new talent is an added bonus. Capello is anxious to put the negative 2010 World Cup as coach of England behind him and this can only play in the favour of Russian qualification.
South Korea are a physically fit team that are out to prove a point and qualify against all odds.
This group will be as unpredictable as the state of affairs in each nation but Belgium holds the cards.